There'll be little neutral ground at a House panel hearing Wednesday (May 12) to discuss a bill that would broaden consumer fair-use rights.

There'll be little neutral ground at a House panel hearing Wednesday (May 12) to discuss a bill that would broaden consumer fair-use rights.

The bill, The Digital Media Consumers' Rights Act of 2003, H.R. 107, would allow consumers to circumvent copyright protection systems on entertainment products if they do so for non-infringing uses, such as making a copy for use in autos.

Record- and movie-industry lobbyists oppose the bill, saying it would leave the door open for pirates as well. Sources tell Billboard.biz that such a law would put an unacceptably heavy burden on copyright holders to prove that copying was for an infringing use.

The bill, which has 15 co-sponsors, would also amend the Federal Trade Commission Act to ensure that copy-protected discs are clearly labelled as such and visible to consumers in stores. It deems releasing a copy-protected product without clear labeling an "unfair and deceptive act or practice."

The legislation has stagnated for 18 months in the House Judiciary Committee, the panel that usually deals with copyright issues. But bill author Rep. Rick Boucher, D-Va., who also sits on the Commerce Committee, was successful in moving the hearing to that committee's Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet.

The witness list at Wednesday's hearing will include RIAA president Cary Sherman and Jack Valenti, chairman/CEO of the Motion Picture Assn. of America, who both oppose the measure.

Gary Shapiro, chairman/CEO of the Consumer Electronics Assn., is expected to give support testimony, as are leading copyright-law professors Larry Lessig and Peter Jaszi, both longtime supporters of expanded fair-use revisions to the Copyright Act.

In related news, the House Judiciary Committee will also mark up several pending copyright infringement and anti-piracy bills later this week in an effort to bring them to the House floor for passage.